Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ah, see, not Blane but Blair!

It’s all twisted around, the information about my Gram’s side of the family. Throughout the years, I’ve asked about my dad’s mom, Mary – where did she come from, what is her family’s origin.

Canada, my dad said. The Blanes came from Canada.

So I dug and found, they came down from Canada. Then I dug further and found a mystery.

Did you know, Dad, that your mom was born Mary Blair, not Blane?

Was she now?

Yes, see, it’s Blair on the 1900 census. And look, here’s her father and mother’s wedding licence – He’s Henry Blair. So why is he Henry Blane on the 1940 census?

I’ve heard Blair/Blane before, Dad said, just don’t know why.

I found Henry’s dad, Newell Blair, and his dad, Louis Blair and his dad Enus Blair… Then when I searched Rosa’s side I found her mom Elizabeth Blair and nothing more.  frustrated, I kept digging.

Then I found her. And I blinked.

What?

I checked again.

Dad, I called to say, did you know your grandparents, Rosa and Henry Blair were first cousins? Did you know that Elizabeth and Newell were brother and sister?

He had no response. Guess it was something no one talked about.  But it’s not too great a secret – it happened plenty a hundred years ago in rural Vermont.

So, I had to ask – is that why they changed their name to Blane? Or was it because it was more American and not so Scottish?

Don’t know Tudes, my dad replied, guess we’ll never know.

 

I’d like to invite you to explore another blog where I reflect on my family’s life in rural Vermont in the form of a letter to my Great-Gran, Rosa Blair. You can find it at: http://letterstorosa.wordpress.com

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Not Irish, but Scottish!

pictured from left to right: Frankie Blair; his dad (my great-grandfather) Henry Blair;

Henry’s brother, Newell Blair; and Newell’s new wife, Lizzie

So I had an opportunity to speak with a sister of a friend the other day, one visiting from England and one that works in genealogy, and I asked her about the Blair name and did she know what country it came from.

Scottish, she thought. Then she paused. Definitely, Scottish.

But what about Irish?

No, the Blair’s in Ireland would’ve come from Scotland.

What if they spoke French and came from Canada?

She smiled, but it was sad. The Scottish were allied with France, she continued, and many spoke French. They went to France to escape the Highland Clearances that happened in the mid- 1700’s.  Many headed to Canada from there.

Enus Blair, my great, great, great, great grandfather was born in 1794 in Canada. I can go no further back.

The Clearances, she said, were troubling times. One where families fled poverty, death or internment. Most left no records behind.

Ah, I said and thanked her.

I may never know where Enus’ family came from.

But from the sound of it, they came from Scotland.

 

I’d like to invite you to explore another blog where I reflect on my family’s life in rural Vermont in the form of a letter to my Great-Gran, Rosa Blair. You can find it at: http://letterstorosa.wordpress.com

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the Irish in Vermont…

Strange how we can walk among Sullivans, Murphys and Finnegans and not understand how deeply routed they are in Vermont. The small town I live in has but one Catholic Church, built in 1846. Its cemetery is filled with Maguires, Caseys and Nolans. They were the famine Irish and they brought the Catholic Church to Vermont.

These were the first wave of Irish immigrants. They travelled from northern Ireland in coffin ships and arrived in ports in Canada, not Ellis Island. Disease killed many before they had a chance to step on American soil.

They came to find freedom from hunger, poverty and oppression. They bought sub-par land and populated such towns as Underhill, Fairfield and Waterbury. Burlington once had an Irish borough. It’s Irish blood that was spilt in the quarries, and Irish sweat that built the railroads. And the Irish penchant for brawls and ale that drove the inhabitants of Vermont to hate.

Prohibition in Vermont began in 1840 and lasted well into 1900. Not exactly a welcoming culture for the Irish, so they sought other Irish. Many came because of a cousin or brother already settled here. That goes far to explain the long, winding dirt road in my town. It’s called Irish Settlement Road.

All this I learned from a wonderful book called Finnigans, Slaters, and Stonepeggers: A History of the Irish in Vermont by Vincent E. Feeney (ISBN 978-188459252-2)

I’ve not been able to trace my grandmother’s ancestry back very far – the Blairs came down through Canada in the 1860’s, but I can put the clues together without too much trouble.  They settled in Burlington, Fairfax and Waterbury, signed up and fought in the Civil War, though they would not be naturalized until 1872. They were Catholic. And how the Ferry side of my family hated it when one married a Blair. It split the family apart, or so my father says.

My gram was born Blair and died Blane and I never understood why. Her dad, Henry Blair married Rosa Drinkwine Blair, yes, they were first cousins not an unusual occurrence for an immigrant family in a hostile culture. I’ve started another blog, and forgive me if I promote it – it is but a bit of private self-indulgence on my part. It called “Letters to Rosa,” a journal of sorts, a document to keep my family’s history intact.

I hope you visit, I hope you like it.

Mostly, I hope the Blairs will be remembered.

 

I’d like to invite you to explore another blog where I reflect on my family’s life in rural Vermont in the form of a letter to my Great-Gran, Rosa Blair. You can find it at: http://letterstorosa.wordpress.com

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Not Emerald… but yellow!

I was perusing research material when editing my manuscript the other day and came across something interesting… well, at least, I found it interesting…

The Emerald Isle – right? We all think of the color green when talking of the Irish, but up to the 1500’s the Irish wore yellow and thought of that as their color.  A rich, saffron yellow, too. Men and women wore long yellow shirts called leines (pronounced layna) – men wore them belted, women wore them as an undergarment with a dress over it. All leines had long, flowing sleeves they could button up.

The English hated this dress, called them the “wild Irish” and tried to ban the sale of saffron and limit the amount of material they could use. What civilized person would wear yellow with sleeves like that, right?

It was a time of upheaval for the Irish, from within and without. Gaelic clans warred for control in the north and west while England banned the Gaelic tongue, forbid English living in Ireland from marrying Irish or wearing Irish dress.

Tough stuff…

 

I’d like to invite you to explore another blog where I reflect on my family’s life in rural Vermont in the form of a letter to my Great-Gran, Rosa Blair. You can find it at: http://letterstorosa.wordpress.com

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